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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Tailgate Lectures: Milk Man

The sun settles into the horizon signifying feeding time, Grandpa starts up the old white feed truck that goes an astounding 15 mph on a good day and we head to the North Pasture. After dumping out the alfalfa cubes for the cows to munch on, we take a seat on the tailgate and watch the calves milk during the communal “treat time”. I loved seeing the frothy white mustaches the calves would acquire during this time and have Grandpa explain to me which cows were good mothers. 

You’re probably thinking this post has something tied to milk and the process involved in getting it from the cows and poured into the glass you just dunked a cookie in. While it is a logical follow-up, you’re wrong. I’ve had nagging questions about this post’s topic for a few weeks and it is time I share the answers I was able to find.  In all actuality, it has little to do with the milk-related scene I remembered from my past. Same beverage, different animal.

Have you ever wondered why we don’t drink pig milk?

That’s right, pig milk. Or sow milk, as sow is the term used for a female pig that has given birth to at least one litter of piglets. Pigs give us a lot of food products. They give us bacon, ham and pork chops. Pigs are mammals so we know that they lactate, but why don’t we harvest it so that they can give us milk too?

From researching this topic I have learned a few things about the pitfalls in the logistics of a pork dairy industry. Likewise to any discussion, there are a few pros, like the fact that pig milk would taste great. It has 8.5% butterfat content, compare that to the 3.5% in cow milk and you know it’s a good thing! It has the same percentages of lactose and water as cow milk. The cons I came up with are as follows:

  •            A pig will only produce 12 pounds of milk on an average day. A cow will produce 60. While pigs consume less feed in a day, it’s not a big enough difference to swing a staggering 48-pound deficit in  milk production.
  •            Piglets must be weaned for the sow to become pregnant again. Cows can still be lactating while in gestation. You would have to take a 113-day hiatus from collecting milk every time the sow needed to have a litter.
  •            Sows have around 14 teats. Cows only have 4. Can you imagine a 14-teat milking machine?
  •            Speaking of milking machines. The hormone that stimulates milk to let down in mammals is called oxytocin. A cow will continue to let down milk after the onset of this hormone transmission for 10 minutes. The sow is stimulated to let down milk from the suckling that piglets provide. The ejection time is around 30 seconds. Now imagine a 14-teat milking machine that can collect milk from a sow in less than 30 seconds!

Now that is some food for thought. Meanwhile, support the cow dairy industry and dunk that chocolate chip cookie you were about to eat in a glass of cold, refreshing milk today!

1 comment:

  1. Great info, Tera! I'll link your story when I get to the letter "M!"



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